Monday, April 29, 2013

COSCBWI April 2013: Chapter Endings

This month's COSCBWI meeting was led by Regional Advisor, Linda Miller.  Linda discussed an oh-so important topic for writers: Chapter Endings!

Chapter endings are important in a manuscript because every single chapter has one--so you better learn how to write a great one!  They need to be well-thought, carefully crafted, and make your reader yearn to read just one more chapter.  (aka, "Grab that flashlight and read under the covers waaaaaay past bed time!")  So how does a writer achieve compelling--and utterly compulsive--chapter endings?

Linda gave the group many suggestions, including:

-Utilize cliffhangers and think in terms of commercial breaks in a TV show.  Where can you break off the action that will leave the reader on the edge of their seats?  This may involve a bit of rewriting, or just a little tweak.  Would your chapter end in a more exciting way if you simply took off the last few lines?   

-Use the end of a chapter to reveal a big surprise.  The last few lines might be a great place to throw in that exciting plot twist they'll never see coming!

-Think about the length of your chapters.  Short chapters are becoming more popular (and common), and your longer chapters may benefit from having the action broken down into smaller scenes.  Looking ahead, it's easy for your audience to read just one more chapter when that next chapter is only a few pages long.  (Then another...and another...and...) 

-Don't cut your chapter short, though, for the sake of creating a "false" or "forced" cliffhanger.  If you cut an action scene or conversation off in the middle, and seem heavy-handed while doing it, your reader might just get annoyed or even put your book down.  (Think about frustrating reality TV shows that take four commercial breaks to move the action forward.  Those equal zero fun.)

 -Don't feel the need to make every chapter a cliffhanger.  But at the same time, don't wrap up every chapter with a nice little bow.  By utilizing both types of endings, you can create satisfying pacing and a memorable experience for your reader.  

After Linda's discussion, the group read chapter endings from member volunteers.  Constructive critiques were given to help writers turn good chapter endings into GREAT ones!  I know everyone learned a lot from the group's suggestions and feedback.  :)

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, you can find out more on the group website at  I hope to see you at the May meeting!

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